Shadow over light trail

The 2019 trail. Photo by Jessica Wyld for the City of Perth

PERTH council’s Christmas Lights Trail may go a little more commercial this year with a plan afoot to let city retailers make a funding “contribution” to ensure the trail winds past their shop. 

Perth commissioners held off endorsing the council staff’s plan to rejig the path this week, concerned that who’s paying to get a taste of the trail was being kept a secret. 

A council report says staff have negotiated about $247,500 of Christmas cash contributions from “various stakeholders including major retail centres”.

Cash

The cash was “in exchange for a lighting installation near or within” the funder’s spot. It added on to $1 million council funding already committed and was intended to extend the trail rather than nick bits from elsewhere.

When the plan to vary the path came up for the first round of discussion at last week’s council briefing, commissioners weren’t told who was paying in.

Cmmr Len Kosova wasn’t comfortable.

“It’s just a little bit too ambiguous for my liking … I’d like to know how much from whom, because there may even be conflicts of interest that need to be addressed there,” he said.

At this week’s council meeting they were due to vote on the trail variation, and were provided a partial list that was kept confidential from the public. 

Council staffer Tabitha McMullan explained the reason behind the list being kept secret: “We felt that, for these organisations, they usually like to have a say in the marketing and release of when their participation in the Christmas Lights Trail is announced. We felt to put that up in a council agenda… would rob them of that opportunity.”

Confidential

Commissioners felt that wasn’t a valid reason for it to be confidential. There was some uncertainty over whether the donors were offered confidentiality during the negotiations, so commissioners deferred the item until that could be cleared up and a list of donors could be made public.

Chair commissioner Andrew Hammond said: “If an entity donates or enters into an agreement with council, then the community and the council has a right to know who that entity is, because in terms of ethical considerations there may well be some companies and entities that the city should not enter into partnerships with or receive money from… if there is an organisation that is unwilling to have the name of their entity disclosed, then I’d ask the question, why?”

It was the commissioners’ last ordinary council meeting, so it’ll be up to the new council elected in October to vote on the path variation.

by DAVID BELL

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